How Do You Green the Green?

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I’ve written in this space before about greening sports — using sustainable energy sources, choosing healthier and more efficient building materials, recycling, avoiding cleaners with harmful chemicals. But if you run an athletic center with fields, how do you green those fields? It’s ironic, of course — nothing should be greener. However, in order to stay in perfect shape for game day, natural turf fields require a regimen of chemical applications, mowing, and irrigation that consumes valuable resources, creates waste, and potentially damages the environment.

The good news is, there are a few steps you can take to reduce harmful practices. Consider the following:

1) Choose chemicals that are more environmentally friendly. In an ideal world, we’d eliminate the use of pesticides and fertilizers altogether. Unfortunately, the world isn’t ideal. To maintain budgets and properly oversee highly-trafficked fields, facilities have few alternatives but to treat fields heavily. And, while Environmental Protection Agency regulations have banned most hazardous chemicals from products used for field maintenance, there is still a wide range of products available, some of which are more harmful than others. Whenever possible, choose organic materials for fertilizing and pesticide treatment, not synthetic ones. Coffee grounds, chicken manure, and turkey manure are good alternatives.

2) Reduce water consumption. You need water to keep those fields bright and healthy, but keep in mind that water is a precious commodity: The State of California recently announced it is suffering its worst drought in 1,000 years. How do you use less water and make the most of the water there is? Install systems for reclaiming stormwater and runoff. And then make sure you manage irrigation properly. If it rains one day and there’s plenty of moisture in the soil the next, don’t keep the irrigation system running. Also, consider irrigating only when wind is low, in order to keep evaporation rates down.

3) Re-evaluate your machinery. If you’re using straight-up fuel to power your mowers, look into the possibility of obtaining equipment that runs on biofuels or other clean alternatives. If that equipment does not fit in your budget, cut back on mowing frequency.

4) Think long-term. Whatever you’re doing with your fields today, ask how those practices will affect the immediate and larger environment in the future. If you renovate your fields, can you pulverize material and stockpile it for use elsewhere — on a golf course, for example? Can you create a pond or holding tank to capture water when you irrigate, and then find ways to re-use that water? Can you use material from old fields to fertilize new ones?

5) Ask the experts. Entire university departments exist to research sports turf maintenance. If you want to take a stab at greenifying your fields, reach out to people in the know. They’ll be able to tell you the best type of grass for your locale and particular uses, how often different grass varieties need mowing, what kinds of computerized weather and irrigation systems you might consider installing, and a host of other details that will get on the road to ever greater sustainability.

Healthier Planet, Healthier You

Healthier Planet, Healthier You

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I’ve talked about the Green Sports Resource Directory in this space before. Created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it’s a collection of online resources designed to help sports facilities, leagues, and college and university teams reduce their carbon footprints. With inspiring success stories and links to organizations devoted to helping sports-oriented businesses make environmentally sound decisions, the website illustrates the benefits of greening sports. It also links to tools that can help facilities and teams track and control their energy consumption, like EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio manager, and to lists of products that perform well and are cost efficient—while also being safer for the environment.
Bottom line: It’s a great resource, it can save you money, and it helps make a better planet. Already, sports outfits across the country are making a commitment to protect the health of employees and clients and to improve the environment. The Seattle Mariners have used energy efficiency techniques to reduce their electricity consumption by over 90 percent—and to reduce energy costs by $50,000 per year. Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center earned a LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building council last year, and it has challenged fans to “be green” by using public transit, recycling, and reducing paper waste associated with tickets. In West Columbia, South Carolina, a former dump and landfill site was transformed into a recreational area, with a mini-golf course, a driving range, a practice golf course, a ball park, and—I love this detail—a recycling center.
Chances are your facility, league, or team already has taken some steps toward becoming greener. You reuse, reduce, and recycle; you advise your employees not to print out emails unnecessarily, and you communicate with your clientele virtually more than on paper; you choose machines that use energy efficiently. But probably you can take your efforts further. Can you invest in solar energy? (I know a horseback-riding training center in upstate New York with state-of-the-art stables, a vast indoor arena, 34 acres of beautiful land, and a big, old-fashioned farmhouse, where, because of solar panels on the roof, the electricity bill comes to $19 per month.) Can you use products that conserve energy? Can you clean without harmful chemicals? Can you boost efforts to get everyone in your facility—managers, employees, fans, members, and clients alike—wasting less and conserving more?
Moreover, can you effectively advertise your efforts? Because in addition to saving money and making the world safer, operating a greener business can attract the attention and loyalty of consumers whose concern about climate change and environmental health lead them to make decisions based on green practices. Want new members, customers, or clients? Reduce your energy consumption and let everyone know you’ve done so.

Energy saving

You'll be Green with Savings & Sustainability

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Ah, summer. I love winter’s snow, I’m a sucker for the gardens of spring, and fall contains what will always be my favorite holiday (Halloween, of course), but for me summer is hands-down the best season of all. I love the salad-eating, outdoor-exercising, blazing hot energy of it all—the swimming, the relaxation, the air-conditioning.
I know that last item is problematic, and it’s part of a much larger issue. Air-conditioning creates a huge carbon footprint, and if employed without regard to sustainability and energy conservation, it can contribute devastatingly to environmental destruction. However, from a fitness or sports facility perspective, it’s indispensable. Yet, it’s not just summertime air-conditioning that creates challenges. Lighting, energy consumption, heating, material waste—all of these issues affect how you run your facility year-round, how much money you save or spend, and your impact on the environment.
One way to tackle all of these issues at once is to push your facility to achieve LEED certification. Being LEED—or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—certified means meeting certain standards in energy savings, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and CO2 emissions reduction. The cost of designing and constructing a building that meets such standards is high, as is the cost of improving existing buildings. Maintaining LEED-certified facilities also carries costs. But in the end, the savings associated with LEED-certification, financial and otherwise, make it more than worthwhile. So how do you go about achieving it?
First, adopt a “going green” mindset. Demonstrate your facility’s commitment to creating an environmentally sound space by getting all employees on-board with the notion. It’s crucial that your management team understands the specific goals and considers LEED-related issues in all decision-making processes; if you have a stated company mission and can make LEED-compliance part of it, all the better. Equally important is that your sales team recognizes the power of LEED as a lever for selling your brand. Potential members and customers will appreciate the knowledge that joining your club or attending your practice facility or venue helps minimize environmental impact, and in a competitive market, such a factor can be a crucial selling-point.
Next, to cover the considerable costs of building a new LEED building or bringing an existing one up to speed, consider gaining sponsorship or embarking on a partnership. Local waste companies looking to promote their recycling programs, cleaning companies that market green products, municipal agencies launching new fitness agendas, and businesses with specific, health-related objectives—these are just a few categories from which to seek out sponsors or partners. To find one that’s right for you, you’ll need to do some research, identify the needs and wants of potential partners, and design proposals that meet those needs and wants. Any proposal you come up with should detail how the image, mission, values, and/or green initiatives of the sponsor or partner align with those of your organization and highlight the value of the alignment.
Finally, think both big and small. Reconfiguring your facility to meet LEED standards is thinking big, and it’s a crucial step that involves a good deal of research, commitment, and investment. You also want to make simple changes that might be tiny in and of themselves, yet, add up to a big change, contributing to an environmentally sound approach to running your facility. Install recycling containers next to trash cans. Replace old drinking fountains with newer ones that allow for bottle refills. Consider ways you might be able to buy locally, stocking your juice bar with fruit from nearby farms and getting supplies from companies in your city or neighborhood. Offer discounts at your café for customers who bring their own drinking containers. Tie messages about personal health into ones about the health of the planet. Every little effort makes a difference, and will help make your facility a leader—year-round—in the sustainability movement.

Your ice rink, stadium, or Sports Facility Needs LED Lighting Right Now

Your Sports Facility Needs LED Lighting Right Now

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You run an ice rink, a stadium, or some other kind of sports arena, and you’re still using metal halide light fixtures? You have no idea what you have been missing.
Athletic Business, a print and online resource for thousands of sports industry professionals, recently ran an impressive story about the War Memorial Arena, a rink in Syracuse, New York. It is the home of the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch. In 2012, the arena switched its metal halide light fixtures, which had been in place since the facility’s inception in 1951, for LED lights specifically designed for sports applications. The effects were immediate and astounding. First of all, the amount of light hitting the ice during games improved from an average of 105 foot-candles to 217 foot-candles. Simply put, spectators could see the game better. What’s more, the new LED lights have many more functions than the old lights: They can be programmed for effects during pregame introductions. The goalie can be isolated in light. Lights can be made to zoom around the facility. And, just for fun, the lights can turn the ice the exact same shade of blue as the team’s jerseys. As Howard Dolgon, Syracuse Crunch owner told Athletic Business, “The lights give us the ability to do things we couldn’t do before. They’ve become a promotional tool for us.”
But get ready for the best part: The lights save a ton of energy and money. The old metal halide fixtures consumed 263,000 kilowatts of power annually. The new LED ones? During the 2012-2013 season, the power draw was reduced by 87 percent to 32,000 kilowatts. The savings is huge.
Sure, you’ll put a decent-sized capital investment down in order to get an LED lighting system in place, but the savings you’ll reap makes such an investment well worth it. At Weber State University’s Dee Events Center basketball arena in Ogden, Utah, the conversion of metal halide lighting to LED lighting cost about $200,000 (minus $156,000 thanks to utility company incentives). But the arena’s energy consumption has been cut by 70 percent, saving the university $25,000 a year. In addition, because each LED light’s estimated lifespan is 150,000 to 160,000 hours, annual lamp replacement has been eliminated—for the Dee Events Center, that means a good 30 years of usage for each bulb. Jake Cain, the energy and sustainability manager at the university explained it this way to Athletic Business: “I did some different analyses on how this project panned out. If I did purely just the energy savings, it was about an eight-year ROI. If I threw in energy and maintenance, it was like five. If I threw in the utility incentive, now I’m down to about a one- to two-year range for it to pay for itself.”
Within the American Hockey League, LED lighting is gradually becoming the standards. Teams in several cities in addition to Syracuse have made the switch. The same thing is happening at arenas designed for other types of sports as well. There are just so many benefits accruing from LED lighting, that everyone is eager to get in on the great investment. If you haven’t started investigating options for your sports facility, now is the time to begin. Light up your business in a whole new way.

Green Your Facility

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When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its Green Sports Resource Directory in August, I remembered the horse farm my son and I visited earlier this year. A sprawling establishment, with state-of-the-art stables, a vast indoor arena, 34 acres of beautiful land, and a big, old-fashioned farmhouse – the place must have cost a fortune to maintain. Or so I thought, until I noticed the solar panels blanketing one side of the barn roof. I asked the owner if using solar energy cut down on his costs. “My electricity bill is about $19 a month,” he said proudly. “No,” I said, “I don’t mean for the stables; I mean for the whole farm.” “Yep,” he said. “Nineteen dollars a month.”

Like the farm I visited, fitness facilities can save money by making “greener” choices — that is, by relying on sustainable energy sources. And not only can they save money; also, they can conserve valuable resources, reduce pollution, create safer environments for workers and clients, and use their investment in environmental protection to attract new clients and retain current ones.

The EPA’s Green Sports Resource Directory can help. A collection of online resources designed to help sports facilities, teams, colleges and universities clean up their acts, the website explains the benefits of green sports, offers inspiring success stories, and provides links to organizations devoted to helping sports-oriented businesses make environmentally sound decisions. It also links to tools that can help you track and control your facility’s energy consumption. These include EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager and lists of products that perform well and are cost efficient — while also being safer for the environment.

Chances are your business already has taken some steps toward becoming greener. You reuse, reduce, and recycle; you advise your employees not to print out e-mails unnecessarily, you communicate with your clientele virtually more than on paper; and you choose machines that use energy efficiently. But you probably can take your efforts further. Gyms and other fitness facilities require a ton of energy to power equipment, keep pools functioning, provide heat for showers and saunas, wash towels, and run general day-to-day operations. Can you invest in solar energy like the horse farm does? Can you find products that conserve energy and/or products that clean without harmful chemicals? Can you boost efforts to get everyone in your facility — managers, employees, and members alike — wasting less and conserving more?

Once you green your facility, you can effectively advertise your accomplishments – because like that farm-owner, you should be proud. Your efforts will benefit you and your community in untold ways, beyond the foreseeable future. If you are looking to make your business more efficient checkout our sports facility management software.